Results of study reveal more public awareness needed

More public awareness may help bridge the gap between a perceived lack of services in the community and the reality

More public awareness may help bridge the gap between a perceived lack of services in the community and the reality of what is already out there.

The results of a $35,000 community needs assessment study completed by HarGroup Management Consultants show that just under half of the respondents don’t know what programs and services are offered.

While respondents said they wanted more drop-in sports and arts activities, report findings indicated the respondents weren’t aware of what was already available. Newspapers, program services brochures and the town’s website were most commonly used to access information.

Several participants who said they had visited the Sylvan Lake Community Centre to access information noted they were pleased with the quality and quantity of the information available.

However, in many cases, residents who hold these concerns have not accessed community and social programs and services, the report findings state. Community and social development director, Marlene Curtis said increasing awareness will be a priority for her department.

“We will be using the report to identify these areas (where awareness is needed) and look at ways to increase the profile,” she said. “We really want people to be aware of what’s out there and we want to fill in the gaps for the services that are missing. That was the whole purpose of the survey.”

The study showed that, overall, residents have a strong sense of community and more than half the respondents indicated someone in their household volunteered.

Despite a perceived lack of child care spaces, a concern about a shortage of senior housing and no acute care centre, the results of the study show residents, overall, are happy living in Sylvan Lake and a strong sense of community exists.

The report states Sylvan Lake’s small/rural atmosphere, scenic beauty and recreational opportunities make it an appealing place to live.

Challenges identified by residents who completed the survey appeared to be universal in nature and included being physically inactive and gaining or losing too much weight. Too much stress, not being able to save for retirement, lack of sleep, too much debt and not having access to healthy food were other challenges identified.

As Sylvan Lake is comprised primarily of a younger community, (at present seven out of 10 residents are under 45 years of age) available child care services is a priority.

Two-thirds of the survey respondents with children or youth said they would use child care services in Sylvan Lake if space was available, with only one third of the respondents stating they used child care. Cost and lack of space were the main reasons cited for not using child care. The fear of their children being bullied was identified as an issue by parents who filled out the survey, along with the need to street proof their children.

About one in four respondents anticipate needing to move into seniors housing within the next five years and another quarter within the next five to 10 years.

Many residents would like to continue to live in Sylvan Lake into old age, yet they perceive that the area lacks housing options and services to do so.

Some residents foresee advantages to having a public transportation system available to address the challenge of traveling to Red Deer.

In conducting the survey, a mailing list of 7,456 addresses was comprised from tax assessment systems from the Town of Sylvan Lake, the summer villages and Red Deer County. A total of 862 residents replied.